Launched in 2008, Chris Morling’s Cirencester-based money.co.uk is looking to take on the major money comparison websites in the UK.
Business Leader Magazine’s three part interview with the founder and managing director covers the company’s growth, views on the market and economy, and what it’s like to work from a castle.
Can you tell us a brief history of money.co.uk and yourself?
My background is in IT. I worked for Oracle, immediately prior to setting up my own business. I actually set up the business in 2001 and it was seven years before I set up Money.co.uk.
So, prior to Money I had a whole series of different websites, fifty different websites, all focussing on different financial products and even some products outside the financial sector. And it was in 2008, it was a kind of do-or-die moment, rather than having lots of little sites that were doing ok, let’s have one site that’s amazing.
So we spent a year bringing all the information together from all those seperate sites, we wrote a whole load of new articles, we brought in market data from Defacto, reskimmed it and made it look lovely and launched Money.co.uk in 2008.
That was the lead up and since then we’ve grown from strength to strength. But I think it’s fair to say in the first few years we ticked along, didn’t really push the business, it was profitable but we weren’t doing anything stand-out.
It was another realisation that if we don’t do something really special, we’re not going to survive.
What do you attest the success of yourself and the business to?
Some of it can be attributed to having the drive to see things through and actually deliver on my vision and ideas. Not just start something and then start something else. Which I think some people can fall into the trap of. I think as well as a technical mind, I have a creative mind, which really helped me early on as it allowed me to do basically everything within the business.
I’ve had experience in every area of the company, most of which beyond technology were completely new to me. Even though I don’t do any of that now on a day-in-day-out basis, what it does give me is an insight into what needs to be done and a true understanding of the issues involved.
I don’t think it’s down to me the success of the business, one person is like lighting a touch paper. One person starts it off and gets it going but without a great team around you you’re not going to go anywhere. Blowing my own trumpet, I think I employed some brilliant people and they’ve proven it because we’ve delivered so much with such a small team.
How do you see the finance comparison market evolving?
I think it’s all about personalisation. This is for the industry as a whole. What you’ll see is more relevant information coming to you, as and when you need it, rather than you having to go to a comparison site to compare.
A good example of that is the energy clubs that you see now, where you can sign up and you’ll be told when there’s an opportunity to save money and that’s going to happen across more and more sectors.
Our mission statement is to make financial decisions as simple as possible with clever technology. So, everything we do is about making that decision process as simple as possible because they’re complex products and there’s a lot of stuff out there, and you have to throw a lot of technology in the mix to make that work.
In terms of the technology, what sets you apart from the competition?
First there’s the technology that impacts what the consumer sees and there’s technology in the back end. In terms of what the consumer sees, we put a lot of emphasis on creating a massive wealth of guides for people in understanding, not just what financial products mean and what there is on offer, but how to compare them and choose the one that’s relevant for you.
In terms of our back-end systems, I’ve always had a massive emphasis on automating everything we can possibly automate. We’ve got sophisticated admin systems and reporting systems we’ve developed in-house, so, the whole process of managing what products appear on site and when is a fully automated process, and our reporting system, I believe, is second-to-none.
Ultimately, our focus has to be on user experience because we’re no fools. If you don’t make the user experience a positive one and genuinely help people, , they’re not going to come back. And number two, obviously it’s the right thing to do as well.
What have been the main challenges you’ve faced in business and how have you overcome them?
The key ones for me has been the growth, I know we are comparatively small company compared to many, we’ve currently 57 employees. But having gone from a team of 12 two years ago to 57, it’s a very different game both personally and how the company operates.
The way in which you communicate completely changes because you move from an environment where you are all sat around a couple of tables, overhearing every conversation and understanding everything that’s going on in the business to having separate groups within the company and people starting to focus more and more on a particular area.
You have to make a conscious effort to bring in processes and awareness to make sure that people are communicating and sharing knowledge the whole time.
We do that both with common sense approaches to having conversations where relevant, making sure that we are proactively telling other people in the business what we are doing and what the results have been, as well as, people focussing on their day-to-day work. But it’s not easy.
From a personal perspective the most challenging thing has been my change of role. I’ve gone from somebody who’s done a bit of everything, and understanding every single thing that’s going on in the business to somebody who doesn’t do any of the day-to-day stuff now, who works more on strategy direction, problem solving and removing impediments etc.
Has it been hard to let go of some of the roles you had to do?
Absolutely! Accountancy was a joy to get rid of that but all the others I really loved. Ultimately you only do it when you trust people and that’s what gets you through it. As soon as you realise that this individual has got it.
Look out for part two with our interview with Chris next Wednesday!